#RhodesMustFall, and then what?

2015-03-29 12:15

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This week, University of Cape Town (UCT) vice-chancellor Max Price confirmed that his proposal for the statue of Cecil John Rhodes to be removed from its current location was approved by various stakeholders in the university, including the Senior Leadership Group of UCT.

A series of meetings and further consultations will now take place ahead of a special sitting of the council next month. But what should happen to the statue once it is taken down?

“The solution is not difficult,” says photographer David Goldblatt, who spent 30 years photographing South African sites with historical significance and considering (in particular) what meaning colonial and apartheid-era sites have in a democratic South Africa. His three decades of work culminated in a major exhibition called Structures.

“We need to do what was done in Hungary, where all the communist statues were taken and placed in a statue park. That is so we don’t lose the link to history, but also don’t offend people who shouldn’t have a history of oppression towering over them. The [UCT] students are justified in their anger. Statues represent a summation of cultural value and we need to keep them so they can be used for education. So a statue park outside of Cape Town should be built for Rhodes and his friends,” says Goldblatt.

Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, one of the sculptors of the Nelson Mandela statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, says: “I don’t think the statue should be removed; it’s part of our history.

“If it is, it should be retired to a sculpture park, like the Russians did to communist statues in Moscow. But the youth calling for its removal are directing their anger at the wrong thing. Once you remove the statue, there’s no enemy, just this huge responsibility to start building.”

Cape Town architect Mokena Makeka, whose award-winning Makeka Design Lab has worked on projects such as the Cape Town Station and the Freedom Walk Fan Mile that lead to Cape Town Stadium, writes: “It falls upon this generation to assess whether [Rhodes’] narrative is one that warrants contemporary prominence, to remember that we can suffer from an erasure of our past, but it is within our powers to always choose how he shall be remembered.

“Context is therefore essential, in terms of the physical (re)location of the statue, and the narrative that he represents.”

Talk to us: What to do you think should happen to the Rhodes statue?

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